Rising from the ashes

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Part V: A twist in the road

Read also Part I  Part II  Part III  Part IV

By Julie . . . My story now takes an unforeseen turn through a few events I couldn’t imagine would get me to where I have ended up.

I wrote this note on my Facebook page after Derek Chauvin was pronounced guilty for the murder of George Floyd: “My heart is heavy since the verdict of Derek Chauvin. For the past year, seeing the video of what he did and watching the trial each day, I felt it only fair that he be held responsible for his actions in causing George Floyd’s death. And even right up to the moment when he got up from his chair and turned to be handcuffed, I wondered if he felt the terror that he caused another person to feel.”

And then when they walked him through the door, as they started him on his march to prison, right in that moment, I felt a deep sadness. Why? Because it made me relive my niece being led through a similar door in another courtroom three years ago. I couldn’t protect her. I couldn’t know if she was going to be okay or what she would be going through. But I knew that the trauma from her past got her where she was heading.

Since then, I have seen how the system, day after day, fails people who are incarcerated. They are further traumatized. They have little to no support systems. And the cruelest aspect of it all is that often the people charged with their care and support add to their trauma.

These are people who have made mistakes and are no worse than you and I, people who don’t have a voice, are treated inhumanly, stripped of their rights and their dignity. Shame and guilt build, and hopelessness becomes their way of life for the time they are held. Many are people who, like my dear niece, in a moment in time made bad decisions that changed their lives forever as well as the lives of those they love and those they harmed.  Can any of us say we could never be in the same situation? But for the grace of God, I could have been an abuser; I could have even been a murderer and killed my father. One cannot judge what one has not gone through in the exact moment of a perfect storm.

As I watched Derek Chauvin walk through that door after the announcement of his guilty convictions, I imagined the abyss he was walking into. Like the abyss that my niece walked into, it grieved me deeply.

Accountability is necessary. Those who harm others and those who break society’s laws are responsible for their decisions, and there are consequences that need to be faced. But those consequences should not include being a victim of hate and abuse, even being at risk of death, inside our prison walls. My niece is abused and tormented because she bears the label “sex offender.” Derek Chauvin may well be abused, tormented, and harmed because he is a law enforcement officer.

Along with accountability, along with consequences, there must be the opportunity for change, for growth, and for redemption. There must be understanding and compassion and forgiveness. Christ set the example by embracing and loving the worst of us.

No one wins when people are hurt. Hurt people hurt other people, and the cycle of pain and violence continues. Everything done must be focused on an outcome of rehabilitation. Violence inside prison walls does not foster this outcome. Neither do post-release punitive measures such as the sexual offense registry, which limits and restricts the choices, the opportunities, and the rights, of a registered person without providing a safety component to the public.

Thinking about these things raised the question of where my compassion was for my own father. That really brought me to my knees. I didn’t have any. And yet I didn’t know anything about what my father’s past could have been. What made him the man that would harm children, strangers and his own children? I will never have that answer. He’s gone, and I have only his prison records and transcripts from his cases. I actually have victim statements from one. I finally know that much of the truth, and that has to be enough for closure for me.

And now I must face a decision I was unable to consider until now: What do I do with the rest of my life?

Read the conclusion to Julie’s story, Part VI, Putting the pieces together, Wednesday, 7/14.

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3 Thoughts to “Rising from the ashes”

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  1. Cindy

    I am so grateful for your story, Julie. Horrendous pain & torment no human should ever have to endure, much less an innocent child. I know that our Heavenly Father wept with you each & every time & vengeance is His. You have turned your pain into healing for your niece & countless others. What a testimony!! Thank you ❤️

  2. Alexander C. Miles

    Most likely Chauvin will be OK: despite being a former LEA the Aryan Brotherhood and Dirty White Boys will welcome him into their ranks since he killed “a toad.”
    The onlt cops who will be at risk are “chomos” and not stand up guys like Chauvin. The correctional officers will also be sympathetic: it is highly likely that Chauvin will end up as a jailhouse lawyer and spend most of his time helping other prisoners reduce their sentences or even be released due to various procedural infirmities related to their convictions. Thus – have no fear – Chauvin will be treated like a king inside!

  3. Mp

    I am touched that you have put your story out there. I know it is not easy to do. We do not set people up for success once incarcerated and following. Which means our legislators and others would rather risk more harm done to someone yet again. Not everyone is going to work to become a better citizen who has harmed someone, but many will and we shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to do so, while holding them accountable. We can and should do both. I am so sorry you have gone thru what you have and I hope you continue on a path where you find comfort and closure.